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Gates Avenue resident Paula Wells raised concerns over a possible rock crusher approval.
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Clarksburg Weighing Bridge Plans, Preparing Special Town Meeting

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The Selectmen are weighing proposals for Gates Avenue.

CLARKSBURG, Mass. – A Gates Avenue resident has raised concerns with the Board of Selectmen over a preliminary proposal to reroute access over private property, a plan that seems to indicate approval of an expanded gravel operation.

Because of the compromised culvert at the beginning of dead-end Gates Avenue, the town is looking for alternative ways to access the area. The Department of Environment Protection is mandating an open-bottom culvert for some $200,000 that would require installation of a temporary bridge for $450,000.

Without a clear solution, Town Administrator Carl McKinney said on Wednesday he would be open for any option.

Resident Michael Milazzo has offered access through his property; he's also asking to use a rock crusher in his gravel operation and to open an hour earlier than currently allowed.

Gate Avenue resident Paula Wells felt this should not be an option because a rock crusher would be too loud for a residential area.  

"An industrial operation should not take place in a residential area," Wells told the board. "Residents will be treated to a level of noise that will threaten their quality of life, which will change the character of the neighborhood, and reduce property value."

McKinney assured her that neither he nor the board supports any solution yet, but they are open to possible options.

"That might be something we would want to discuss, but that is not the board saying that," McKinney said. "That is in a casual discussion about what are the possibilities; it looks like a trade for a trade, but it doesn’t have to be that way at all."

Board members had made it clear they did not see the road and the rock crusher as a quid pro quo, but as two separate issues.

Wells said she thought the town should pay for the bridge and borrow money. McKinney said the town cannot afford such an expense.

"We were just informed last evening that in five years we have to buy a $500,000 fire truck, and … we have a 60-year-old school that will need funding,” McKinney said. "If we go out and borrow $500,000 for a fire truck and borrow another $500,000 for a bridge … then we are looking at a million dollars in debt."

Selectman William Schrade Jr. said he would like to hear Milazzo’s side of the argument before committing to anything

McKinney said the solution should not be too expensive, but the DEP's mandates make the project unaffordable. He said the DEP is worried about a "marginal fish habitat" in the stream.

"The regulations DEP are putting on this project are obscene and unfair," he said. "There is no rational logical reason for the DEP to demand what they are doing."

He said he has contacted DEP, state representatives, and the governor and has received little help.

Schrade stressed that the lack of access is a safety hazard and the problem needs to be addressed soon.

“If six people live there or 106 we have to do something," Schrade said. "We have to figure out something we can do to get trucks over; it is a safety issue."

If the standing bridge collapses, Clarksburg could enter a state of emergency and bypass environmental laws.

The board planned a site visit with the Department of Public Works next week and will look at other possible access routes through surrounding properties.

McKinney also went over articles for an upcoming special town meeting. He said most of the articles are "housekeeping" items.

He said one of the items will be the closing of the East Road bridge project. He said most of the cost came out of Chapter 90 funds and $17,851 needs to be transferred from the sewer enterprise fund to repair a sewer pipe damaged during hurricanes Irene and Sandy.

Another $2,200 may need to be approved for a hydrant flushing back bills, $1,800 for various services the town has used and an article that creates a lot size requirement for large animals.

McKinney said the last few articles are aimed at hiring a building inspector.  

"We can't buy one to save our soul," he said.

He said one article will appropriate $5,100 (an average of two years of building inspector fees) for a building inspector salary. The town now uses a fee system. Another article will transfer $1,500 or $2,000 from the town administrator’s salary to the building inspector’s salary, so the town can offer a salary of about $8,000 with a $300 educational stipend.

He said another article will combine fence viewer, the zoning board enforcement officer, and the building inspector into one position.

"Hopefully that will attract a candidate that is qualified and licensed," McKinney said.

The special town meeting is scheduled for Sept. 20 Wednesday, Sept. 24, at 6:30 at Clarksburg Elementary School.

The board also approved the creation of a Clarksburg Town Hall Façade Fund. McKinney said town’s people can donate money to the fund to help renovate town hall.

“This is the town’s landmark building, and it has a historic nature,” he said. “It was built in 1938 as an elementary school, and I think as stewards of the town we need to take care of what we have.”

He said the building suffers from peeling paint, inadequate windows, needs brick repointing, and some areas are open to the elements.

He said the first stage of the project is to raise $3,000 to repair the front alcove. He said he would like to have this done before Memorial Day.

It’s a pretty aggressive goal, but we are going to try,” McKinney said. “We would like to have it dressed up pretty well for our veterans and out guests.”

Donations can be put in the tax collectors box and checks can be made out to the Clarksburg Town Hall Façade Fund. 

Tags: bridge project,   culvert,   gravel bed,   special town meeting,   

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